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Shabbos in the Hospital

Rochel Gross

Many Yidden, especially in Eretz Yisrael, work in places that cannot close down on Shabbos, like hospitals. Sick or injured people need to be taken care of on Shabbos, too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

shabbosThe Shaare Zedek Medical Center was founded 106 years ago as a religious hospital. Shaare Zedek uses the most state-of-the-art medical equipment, while adhering strictly to halachah. This rare combination presents special challenges to patients and staff alike, in particular with regard to keeping Shabbos. Electronic metal detectors, automatic doors, elevators, and bells for alerting staff, are just a few examples of scenarios that may cause halachic dilemmas.

To find out more about the challenges and solutions of keeping Shabbos, we spoke to Rabbi Moshe Flegg (pronounced Plegg), the rav at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

MJ: I was wondering: why all the effort to avoid desecrating Shabbos? After all, “pikuach nefesh docheh Shabbos” — we may desecrate the Shabbos to save a life.

Rav Flegg: Indeed, when somebody’s life is in danger, you must immediately do everything possible to save his life. If a person is very sick and by wanting to avoid desecrating Shabbos, you cause him to become sicker or die, you will be held responsible in Shamayim. However, not all patients are in life-threatening danger. Some are well on their way to recovery, baruch Hashem, and others are just in hospital for observation.. There is no heter to be mechallel Shabbos for them.

In addition, if there are two ways of doing things, then why not plan the hospital’s method of operation in a way that avoids chillul Shabbos, without compromising on the patient’s medical care? At Shaare Zedek, we incorporated many technological devices developed by the Institute of Science and Halachah in Jerusalem to keep the hospital Shabbos-observant.


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